Ancient Streets of Sibenik, Croatia by Peggy Burkosky
Beyond my expectations – every hope that I had as an artist who enjoys painting the beautiful details of ancient streets, narrow passageways & arches in old-world splendour was satisfied in my May to June painting tour to Croatia with the The Travelling Brush. You could literally get swallowed up for a lifetime in this part of the world, painting gorgeous architecture, sunsets over every imaginable blue shade of the Adriatic sea and red-tiled country villages in lush green landscapes for hundreds of miles.
Traveling from Zagreb down to Zadar including the stunning Plitvice Lakes, then to Split and out to the islands of Brac & Hvar, the Dalmatian Coast, the beautiful, medieval and haunting Mostar of Bosnia & Herzegovina and finally the gorgeous majesty of Dubrovnic was at times overwhelming – every turn on every corner of this trip said “paint me!” Each town is filled with alleys of white stone and marble with hidden gardens, cobblestone alleys, towers, domes and layers of history in a complex cultural heritage.
Along the way we visited the quieter town of Sibenik, seen here in my painting. It was yet another charming location steeped in fascinating history and old-world beauty. I was so intent on painting the streets en plein air and I literally rolled up my sleeves and parked myself in busy cafes to paint what was right in front of me.
Unbeknownst to me in the swarms of people a few of my fellow comrades from the Travelling Brush peek over my shoulder. I love how members of the group tended to watch out for one another – a blessing. While I paint, I am so caught up in the moment. I see beauty – the craftsmanship of architects and designers from long ago that were influenced by beauty. It causes me to reflect on where all this beauty comes from and I am utterly convinced that it is from a good creator behind it all. As artists we are so privileged to re-create what’s already created! What a marvel.
In the May to June season the weather becomes increasingly warmer yet tolerable and since Croatia has become one of the world’s most sought-after escapes the blossoming crowds add to the heat. All of the cafes were most welcoming, bringing me cups of water for painting and cold local beer if I wanted, clearing off tiny tables so that I could carve out some painting space.
In order to be prepared to paint for this kind of intensive and rich tour it was integral to be flexible, packing my painting gear so that I could adapt to two kinds of painting opportunities. Here’s the entire art supplies for the trip. A lightweight collapsible Monfrotto tripod was a complete godsend recommended by drawing pal and professional photographer Gordon Lafleur. You can see here the quick-release plate is simply threaded onto an ultra lightweight piece of coroplast. When I had the opportunity of a free paint day I back-packed my tripod and favorite 12″ x 16″ watercolour paper – to keep things light I separated the block into smaller blocks of about 8 sheets. I simply clipped this thinner “block” onto the coroplast with the release plate and popped it onto the tripod. When not setting up the tripod I used the smaller stand-up portfolio folder seen here, which sat nicely on my lap, a cafe table, steps, wherever I worked.
The smaller set-up was fast and easy to pack as we headed out for tours. Here the small portfolio is folded up into brush case:
And here it fits nicely into my backpack.
Room for water and the usual purse stuff and off I go!
Here we see my bare essentials for painting en plein air or studio painting. These are an assortment of high quality brands – all of them lovely to use so I would recommend any of them if you’re searching. A clutch pencil (soft 2B to 4B ) works nicely since there’s no need to stop and sharpen. A kneaded eraser, my favorite mops, quills and riggers. My palette is not seen here – it contains the usual basic pigments I use for a limited palette. I include a reliable white designers gouache: Dr. Martin’s Bleedproof White – love the stuff. I try to avoid using masking fluid – not even possible to use it in hot sun!
Many years of painting has lead to these favourites and we all certainly have our own! Shown here from left to right: 2 inch Phoenix Nimbus Wash (love the short handle and “punchiness” of this little brush); 1 inch Royal Langnickel flat called a “bright” since the brush head is short (synthetic, has “snap” and has lasted forever); #6 H. J. Kazan Gold Mop Quill (holds a ton of water and pigment); #4 Princeton Neptune Quill (got it at Opus – lightweight and lovely); #8 Escoda Ultimo Sintetico (a recent love affair – I really like this brush!); a #6 synthetic rigger – no particular recommended brand – riggers do their own kind of job with long lazy calligraphy strokes.
A great little post of our trip hosted by Mark Glavina of The Travelling Brush gives you an idea of what a special experience that we’ve all just had. Remarkable trip, beautiful people and stunning scenery. Unforgettable.
Please stay tuned for more posts about this trip which will include fantastic scenery, more paintings and “How-to’s” to keep you painting!